If your travel plans have been somewhat curtailed by the economy and rising gas prices here is a fantastic one-day, get-away! Many park systems and colleges offer bus trips to museums and other points of interest at discount prices. Why? Well, your taxes and mine go towards maintaining the parks and state colleges in our community. They will often offer such trips, making a smaller profit for themselves than a commercial tour.
Planning Your Day It is always good advice to find out a little information on the show or exhibit you are planning to see. Will there be a lot of walking? How long is the bus trip? Is lunch provided? After getting these basic details, plan and pack accordingly. Some charter buses allow you to leave some non-valuable items such as magazines, books, sweaters, wraps, pillows, etc. on board in the stow-away bins located above the seats. Those things need not be brought into building with you but you should keep a bottle or stainless steel container of water with you. Make sure you write down your bus number and set your cell phone alarm to ring at the time you need to re- board at the end of the day. Once you enter the museum, be sure to get a map as seen here. This will lay out all of the exhibits and galleries that you may wish to visit in an orderly fashion, saving time and steps.
Plan your day to include periodic stops for eating, (if it is nice outside, try lunching al fresco) restroom breaks and foot massages. Comfortable clothing and footwear are essential to a great day out. Side trips should also be planned as they can be a wonderful part of the whole experience. Skip the audio tours too. They tend to heard everyone to the same pieces, causing you to miss the other offerings of the exhibits. You'll even hear that the markers have the same information as what is being spoken in the headphones.
Relax & See What You Want! One of the biggest problems when taking a "guided tour" is pressure to keep up with the group. If you'd rather avoid the tourist trap, I suggest you do a little reading on your own after consulting your map and make your own plans. You will be able to see much more of what YOU are interested in while taking the time to smell the roses. Here I am relaxing at a waterfront gazebo in my comfy sear-sucker pants from ExOfficio and Born of England shoes. We scoped this place out ahead of time and made plans to visit it as part of our personal tour. By doing this, we attended much more than the art exhibit. We went back in time to visit a 12th century French cloister with larger than life paintings by Peter Paul Rubens nearby. Next, we traveled to the orient to experience Asian art and a full sized Japanese Tea House in a garden setting. In the European Art 1500-1850 gallery we found the Knight's Armory and an English Drawing Room.
Since many of these exhibits were dismantled in their country of origin and set up inside the museum, it was just like visiting it there. I've been to The Breakers, the summer home of the Vanderbilt's of Newport, R.I. and can see where they got their inspiration. The palaces of Europe! You can be inspired too but without having to leave the U.S.A.
Ah Yes, Shopping! Museum gift shops are notorious for overly inflated prices for no other reason than they are museum gift shops. However we did find three different shops within the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Two were fairly large but a smaller annex offered ticketed items at 50% off. Guess where we shopped? I purchased a lovely little crock of French spices for under $10. After I use the spices, I'll still have the jar as a memento of my visit to the Cezanne & Beyond show. The point is that you don't have to spend a lot these days. Look for the sales and discounts that can also be had by being a museum member. If you plan to visit often during the year, this is a good way to save even more. The point is to tailor your trip to your specific needs and interests. Don't feel intimidated or afraid to leave the beaten path. We were able to visit virtually all of the galleries on the ground, first and second floors but still had time for an outdoor snack and trip to the waterfront where we saw three wedding parties arriving for photos. Now that was taking in the full experience of what the Philadelphia art district has to offer. You can too! Check your local department of tourism and see what local attractions there may be of interest to you. You'll save time, money and have a great time with just a bit of planning.